Food prices across Lebanon are skyrocketing as the country goes through its worst economic crisis in decades.
Many Muslim families in Lebanon are struggling to afford iftar, the evening meal that breaks the daily fast during the holy month of Ramadan, as food prices soar amid the country’s worst conditions. economic crisis for decades.
“The prices are insane and they have increased even more during Ramadan… a plate of salad will cost six times as much this year,” Beirut resident Um Ahmed told Al Jazeera.
“What do we do? Are we begging? We don’t usually beg.”
Zeina Khodr of Al Jazeera, reporting from Beirut, said that “for millions of people in Lebanon, food becomes a luxury”.
She said that while Ramadan is an important event for Muslims, there were “few signs” marking the occasion in many areas of Beirut.
“Gone are the lights, decorations and traditional drink stalls that are staples on an iftar table.”
The Lebanese economy and currency are in free fall, which is reducing the purchasing power of people.
The Lebanese pound fell to 10,000 against the US dollar in early March, and later in the month fell to a unprecedented 15000. The currency has lost around 90% of its value since the end of 2019.
“Those who used to buy a kilo of vegetables now buy half of it, while others buy by the piece … some leave just after knowing the prices,” said Ahmed, a salesperson for vegetables.
“ Prices have skyrocketed ”
It’s now estimated that a month’s iftar meal for a family of five costs two and a half times the minimum wage, which is worth $ 60 at the black market rate.
Lebanon imports most of its food and there have been shortages as the government is running out of dollars.
“Our salary has not changed but prices have skyrocketed,” said resident Hana Sader.
Although wheat is subsidized by the government, the price of bread has also increased.
Buying just one packet of bread a day for a month costs more than 10% of the minimum wage.
Charities have had to redouble their efforts to help those in need as unemployment in the country of five million people rises.
Maya Terro is the co-founder of FoodBlessed, an organization that feeds some 1,600 families per month.
“They say if they don’t get the box of food this month, it could mean we might not have iftar or have to eat half the amount,” he said. she told Al Jazeera.
The coronavirus pandemic has exacerbated socio-economic inequalities, with more than half of Lebanese families living in poverty.
Last month, demonstrations swept away in Lebanese cities, demonstrators setting up roadblocks on major highways.
In addition, a political dead end adds to Lebanon’s woes as Prime Minister designate Saad Hariri and President Michel Aoun continue to disagree on the formation of a new government and how ministries will be allocated.